Israel launches strikes on Gaza
Border tensions between Lebanon and Israel have only increased since the outbreak of conflict between Palestinian Gaza and Israel.
Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group backed by Iran, engaged in two rounds of cross-border shelling with Israel over the weekend.
The group, which is listed as a terrorist organisation in the UK, says it launched guided missiles at Israel in response to the country’s air strikes on the Gaza Strip.
Since the initial back and forth, Hezbollah appears to have pulled back its efforts in targeting Israel.
It is something that some Middle East hawks have described as “interesting”, with one expert telling Express.co.uk that the group may well be biding its time before carrying out something more.
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“What I see Hezbollah doing right now is very interesting,” said Avi Melamed, an Israeli Middle Eastern strategic intelligence analyst based in Tel Aviv.
“Hezbollah is currently applying very interesting tactics, donating a very well calculated controlled, small scale escalation on the ground.
“The first day they launched a couple of mortar shells at the Israeli army, then there were a couple of infiltration attempts that were intercepted by the Israeli army — but still, it was very controlled and carefully tactical by Hezbollah.”
Mr Melamed believes the reasons for this are two-fold: “One is an attempt by Hezbollah to try and deter Israel from continuing its plan to eliminate Hamas.
“The other thing it reflects is some sort of hesitation with Hezbollah and Iran whether to enter the war.”
On Sunday, senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine said his group’s “guns and rockets” were with the Palestinian people, adding: “Our history, our guns and our rockets are with you. Everything we have is with you.”
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Hezbollah said their strikes were targeted at three posts in Israel, including a so-called “radar site” in the Shebaa Farms region, which Lebanon views as being occupied by Israel.
Officials in Israel have warned Hezbollah against becoming involved in the war that it has declared on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, with military spokesman Richard Hecht telling reporters: “If they come, we are ready.”
Hamas has claimed that only a small number of top officials in the government knew about the impending surprise attacks and that the likes of Iran and Hezbollah did not help.
However, he added that those allies “will join the battle if Gaza is subjected to a war of annihilation.”
Israel is believed to be preparing for a major escalation on the ground, having mobilised large parts of its military and reservists.
“We can definitely expect a very harsh, very extensive, very strong Israeli military response,” Dr Tobias Borck, a Senior Research Fellow for Middle East Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), told Express.co.uk.
“It means that hundreds of thousands of civilians will be caught in the middle.”
Predicting various scenarios that all come with “a lot of violence, deaths, and destruction”, he said the conflict in and around Gaza could lead “groups like Hezbollah, like some of the militant factions in the West Bank, or other groupings around the Middle East, to join the conflict.”
“That’s when we could see a real expansion of the war for Israel, essentially a two-front war, especially with Hezbollah,” he added.
Hezbollah emerged with the help of Iran during the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the early Eighties.
When the occupation ended in 2000, the group refused to disarm and grew as a military strength.
Soon, Hezbollah became a great force in the region and positioned itself as a power broker in Lebanon’s political system.
Many experts say it has essentially gained veto power in Lebanon’s government, and that its capabilities now exceed those of Lebanon’s traditional army.
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